As the 2011 college football season draws closer, here is a closer look at five questions I want answered about the Georgia Bulldogs.
Forget the standard questions about how many games Richt needs to win and how many touchdowns Murray will toss. These are the questions that intrigue me, the Bulldogs fan—not me, the analyst.
Georgia's running backs are dropping like flies.
A few months back Georgia reported a violation in the recruitment of blue chip prospect Isaiah Crowell. While the nation’s top-rated senior back was in Athens, the coaching staff brought him onto the field at Sanford Stadium where the majority of the team was already assembled. Every player was there—except for the running back.
The "missing man" formation was designed to woo Crowell and stress his importance to the future of Georgia’s offense, and it ultimately resulted in a minor penalty for coach Mark Richt.
However, given the transfer of Washaun Ealey, the ineligibility of Caleb King and the suspension of Carlton Thomas, I’m starting to fear that the "missing man" formation might actually become a reality.
Where have all the backs gone?
To make matters worse, Georgia also lost senior fullbacks Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier to graduation.
What are the odds? How did this happen?
According to Richt, Crowell very well may get the start in the season-opener against Boise State, and many wanted that before the mass disappearance of scholarship backs even began. He will be joined by redshirt freshman Ken Malcome and Richard Samuel, who has returned to his original position after a brief stint at linebacker.
But Georgia will have only two running backs on their roster who carried the rock last season—Wes Van Duk and Josh Sailors combined for two carries and five yards against Idaho State.
What just happened in the backfield?
I can guarantee that Kris Durham won't score a TD for Georgia this season.
In addition to Ealey, King and Thomas, the Bulldogs lost their top two receivers in A.J. Green and Kris Durham to the NFL, along with several other offensive contributors.
When it is all said and done, the Bulldogs will open the 2011 season without 561 total touches, 3,453 yards and 33 touchdowns from last season. Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense need to find a way to replace the 69 percent of yards and 72 percent of trips to the end zone that they lost from last season.
Who is going to fill those shoes?
The changes in Georgia’s strength and conditioning program have been drastic and well-documented.
But I want to know what the in-game impact will be.
Reports indicate that players are now training with more specificity to football and less of an emphasis on combine style testing. In other words, the players are training for a game, not for a track and field meet.
Furthermore, players' dietary habits are being monitored closely.
We’ve already seen a little controversy over the changes, as offensive lineman Brent Benedict (the irony of a name) has transferred to Virginia Tech after an apparent conflict with the new regime.
I hope the change results in a more physical football squad and an increase in fourth-quarter performance.
Will there be an improvement?
Who's number 1? That's actually debatable.
If you’ve been clamoring for cornerback Branden Smith to play a larger role on the offensive side of the ball this fall, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Smith, arguably the Dawgs' most athletic player, possesses big-play athleticism that can electrify crowds and change games.
In 2009, Smith carried the ball 17 times for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Last year, his production slipped to only six carries for 46 yards.
While the idea of Smith operating the "Wild Dawg" offense alongside a talented running back still excites Georgia fans, such an opportunity seems limited by the equipment manager.
All signs point to Isaiah Crowell wearing jersey No. 1 this season—Branden Smith’s number. This isn’t a problem in and of itself, and it is becoming increasingly common for an offensive player and a defensive player to have the same jersey number on the same team.
However, NCAA rules prohibit two players with the same number from being on the field at the same time. In other words, we will never see Smith and Crowell in the same backfield.
Why can’t Richt assign Crowell a different number?
Charles, White and Figgins could account for 13 feet and 747 pounds of blocking and pass-catching capability.
The Georgia Bulldogs are hurting at the running back position, missing their two leading receivers from last season and bleeding offensive linemen all offseason.
But one position is flooded with depth for the Bulldogs—tight end.
I’d love to see the Bulldogs take advantage of the depth at that position by going with a multiple tight end set and featuring both Orson Charles (49 catches, 796 yards and five TDs in two seasons) and Aron White (25 catches, 511 yards and six TDs over three seasons).
Richt has already converted Bruce Figgins (nine catches, 83 yards and three TDs over three seasons) from TE to FB, and the presence of all three would not only provide increased blocking capabilities to overcome a potentially haphazard offensive line, but it would also open up a short passing game that would be incredibly difficult to defend.
These three tight ends have averaged nearly 17 yards per catch over their careers, and their one touchdown per six catches scoring ratio is a testament to their reliability in short-yardage situations, so their presence could also make up for a potential shortage among receivers.
It seems like a three tight end set could solve a lot of problems at once.
Why not try it, at least occasionally?